The FBI has opened an investigation into an incident in which a 17-year-old autistic and visibly Jewish boy from Las Vegas, Nevada returned home from public school early last month with a swastika carved into his back.
The Israeli-American Council's (IAC's) School Watch brought this incident to the FBI's attention as a potential federal hate crime, after the local school called the attack a case of bullying.
The IAC School Watch aims to "contribute to a safe school environment and reduce incidents of antisemitism, anti-Zionism, national origin discrimination and hate bias," a spokesperson for the IAC said.
According to the Jewish Press, the teen, who is nonverbal and wears a kippah daily, attends regular classes at his local public school, accompanied by his service dog and an assistant.
On March 9, 2023, the teen returned home from school with his service dog's equipment bag torn up, and a swastika carved into the skin of his back.
"My son is the only student I know of who wears a Kippah at the school," the boy's mother told Jewish news outlet CoLLive.com.
She told the news outlet that although she had notified the school about what she had found on her son's back, the school, and her son's shadow assistant, insisted that nothing out of the ordinary had occurred that day.
"Did he use the bathroom? Did he have any meltdowns yesterday? I would think this would have caused him to have a meltdown or get agitated," she recalled questioning the shadow assistant, in an attempt to understand how the hate crime had occurred.
However, the shadow said that the boy had a good day that day with no meltdowns and claimed that she was with the boy all day.
"As far as I know, the one-on-one is still working at CCSD (Clark County School District)," the mother told the Jewish Press in an email interview. "Her job is to be with my son. If she did not do [the carving], I believe she knows who did."
She has also pulled her son out of school in order to keep him safe, she said.
The family has since filed a report with the Clark Country School District Police but due to the school not having any CCTV equipment in any classrooms, locker rooms, or bathrooms, there is no footage of the incident.
Jewish organizations condemn the attack
"The ADL condemns this violent, antisemitic act," Regional Director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) Nevada, Jolie Brislin, said in a statement. "Not only was this student targeted for his identifiable faith, but he was particularly vulnerable due to his disability. This incident illustrates points of intersectionality in how hate can show itself across marginalized communities.
A statement from ADL Nevada Regional Director @BrislinJolie on a suspected hate incident against a visibly Jewish 17-year-old boy in the Las Vegas area. Read more about this incident here: https://t.co/DX8pmfePja pic.twitter.com/rjP0slLfSb— ADL Nevada (@ADL_Nevada) April 19, 2023
"ADL Nevada, in partnership with Jewish Nevada and SCN, has been in close contact with the parents, CCDS and law enforcement and will be working with Clark High School to provide antisemitism education.
"School should be no place for hate and no student should be made to feel unsafe and threatened."